Its fun to watch the hype machine in play in NYC, and see how things develop. While I read all the Hot and Buzz lists out there as everyone else, I learned over time sometimes the hard way, that things are not always what they seem. A name and/or a little bit of money, at minimum $3000 is needed to market yourself as such. An alum of something good in the world… Noma, EMP, Contra, tickles your interest, with a picture of something beautiful that is cooked for two weeks straight, seals the deal. “Brian is a recent graduate of Betty’s school of Hospitality and Accounting” is not gonna be nearly as sexy.
Nordic eatery N’eat opened last November in East Village with that kind of buzz. I walked by it many times, and watched the menu develop and eventually redesigned. The initial buzz apparently was just that, as reserving now for a prime time table is as easy as getting a table at your local Chipotle. Whats wrong with this place!?! What do the village people know that I dont. You cant get too comfortable reserving tables in NYC these days. Its either too hard, or you secretly wish for a little harder. Thats what she said. I mean my dining companion. She said that. And she’s right.
N’eat is casual, quirky fine dining. The bathroom is blasting Ali vs Frazier in case you missed it. 80’s music includes stuff you dont normally hear, just when you thought you got it pretty much covered. Wait staff is “East Village Fun” as opposed to “EV hipster, help I’m stuck here”. When the waiter said “Still or sparkling, and by still I mean tap”, a small tear came out of my good eye… only to quickly disappear with the usual comical “dishes are meant for sharing”. Advice as useful these days as “Dishes here are meant for eating”. A young Filipino female chef, an Atera, and other heavyweights veteran, at the helm. While its still owned by the same folks including Noma veteran Gabriel Hedlund, something tells me this is no longer the same n’eat, even though it opened just 6 months ago. So if Grandpa happened to eat here 3 months ago, he needs to… Ok, I’m trying here.
“Æbleskiver” (say that one time), a Nordic snack usually eaten during Christmas, was a nice little starter. Like a mini beignet stuffed with braised duck. The accompanied Lingonberries sauce was just the right delicate compliment. Enjoyed the Buckwheat toast with Cremini mushroom and fluffy, shredded, Halvah-like Cheddar. Truffle salt sealed the deal for the brain on this one.
Sunchokes was perfectly cooked into a meaty potato like consistency, served as is with a nice tasting foam. Foam was fairly prevalent throughout the meal. While I admire foam as much as the next guy, at some point we were wishing for some veggie texture. Though the Duck heart tartar had plenty of texture and flavor. Loaded with chives, chive flowers that blossom one month of the year, fermented mushrooms, chili, and dried rice. While very different it was an homage of sorts to the Filipino Sisig. By far the spiciest tartar I ever had
Arctic Char came very rare, with just foam and some trout roe. This is where we started missing those veggies. It was good, but rather forgettable. Short rib, the most expensive item on the menu was perfectly cooked, most likely slowly sous vided. The glaze on top was on the sweet side, and the ultra lean short rib you could cut with a toothpick. It came with a bone marrow and two spreads including fermented onion puree and pepper butter. Combining the two gave the best results.
N’eat is borderline Nyet. Its one of those solid two stars that I dont quite see me returning. I cant really fault anything or any dish other the uniformity of it all. Yet nothing blew my mind, and the menu featured didnt scream unfinished business. Neat is a bordeline But I do appreciate the uniqueness and recommend you to try at least once.
58 2nd Ave (3/4), East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Æbleskiver, Buckwheat toast, Duck heart tartar, Short rib